New Plans for the Ormsby House

It has been my curse to watch the Ormsby House and its progress, or rather its lack of progress, for much of my adult life. Ever since I posted my first pictures of the place 17 years ago, this hotel has hung around my neck and weighed me down. Saner people laughed it off as a lost cause a long time ago, but I dedicated myself to informing all you fine people of the ups and downs of this project until it’s finished. That’s why I should be excited to hear that the Ormsby House has a new buyer lined up, one with big plans on what to do with the building, but instead I just feel tired.

This is big news, though. These are the most concrete plans we’ve had in probably a decade regarding the old hotel-casino near the heart of downtown. Especially ever since the current owners, who spent more than 15 years working on the renovation, decided to give up on the project and sell the building. It was 2016 when they announced the building for sale, and in the last 3 years there have been rumors about potential buyers but no official announcements. It was starting to feel like the sale of the property would drag on as long as the renovation did.

So it was a bit of a shock in September 2019 when the news came out that a buyer had been found. The buyer is Joe D’Angelo, president of Joshua Ventures, a real estate developer from Las Vegas. D’Angelo wants to buy the old hotel for $15 million, and he has big plans for the property, plans which he has outlined in a few interviews with local media outlets. Here are some of his ideas:

  • Convert it to a mixed-use building, without a casino
  • Retail/restaurant/commercial on the first two floors, with a “living room” atmosphere
  • Some hotel rooms
  • Majority of floors for residential suites
  • Five-star amenities, including health insurance for renters and concierge in-house medical care
  • Culinary Arts school
  • Showroom/convention space
  • Green energy plant
  • Hydroponics farm
  • Convert Curry Street to a public plaza

(Sources for this list, and the details below: KTVN article Sept 12th, Carson Now article Sept 13th, Nevada Appeal article Sept 19th, Nevada Appeal article Sept 25th, Carson Now article Sept 27th.)

Here are the floor plans that he provided to the Nevada Appeal along with their interview. Sorry some of the text is hard to read.

When I list everything out like that, it sounds like a perfectly fine, if a little ambitious, plan for how to bring new life to the Ormsby House. And if it was just presented like that, this might be the end of this article.

But this isn’t the end of the article, because of the details that I left out. And most of those details come from the leader of this project, Joe D’Angelo. D’Angelo has turned this plan from a routine announcement of a new development to a lightning rod for controversy, all through some of the audacious things he has said in the interviews above. The Carson Now article from the 27th is especially rich for this stuff, and has got people calling him a “flim flam man” and his plan “a pile of wild horse hockey” in the comments. So let’s see if we can break down why.

First was the prices he wants to charge. He is buying the building for $15 million and expects to put many more millions into construction to make it a five-star property. So how will he make his money back? Through rents on the residential suites in the tower. He has proposed prices of $10,000 per month for a one-room suite (studio apartment basically), and $22,000 for a two-room. Those prices were enough to raise the eyebrows of nearly everyone in town. Many people thought they were a typo at first, until they were repeated in other interviews. D’Angelo brushed it off by saying, “wealthy people will pay that price.” He also says he will be able to get grant money and money from insurance companies to subsidize part of the rent for residents, and unfurnished units would be available for less. But still, there are so many questions raised by this that the interviews are vague to answer. Why would insurance companies pay a portion of a wealthy person’s rent? The interviews give tantalizing hints, talking about medical concierge care, oxygen pumped directly into the rooms, defibrillators, and an on-site pharmacy that makes it sound like this will be some kind of assisted-living or semi-assisted-living facility. But D’Angelo also says “This is not a convalescent home. This is not a group home. This is adult living.” So the plan is a little unclear. He also compares this plan to what Las Vegas hotels have, saying, “If the Sheik of Bahrain is visiting a Las Vegas resort and gets injured, he’s not going to go into the neighborhood urgent care.” That’s probably true, but the Sheik of Bahrain is also probably not renting a room in Carson City.

Another controversial point is that he wants to rename the building. Instead of the Ormsby House it would be named Joshua’s House, inspired by his ministry in Las Vegas. His roots in ministry are also behind his decision to have the property be gambling- and alcohol-free. D’Angelo previously had planned to build a homeless community near Pahrump named Joshua’s Community, but those plans fell apart when the BLM wouldn’t give him the land to build on. He insists that this plan, despite having a similar name, is not going to be another homeless community.

But it’s probably some of his other quotes that have everyone so dubious about these plans and his intentions. When asked where the funding would come from, he says he doesn’t have “investors”, rather he has “benefactors” who would be getting a tax break from putting money into this project. When asked about permitting and getting approval from the city for his plans he gets very defensive, saying that the city wants him to get a Special Use permit, but that his plans are so unique that they aren’t covered by any current rules and regulations, therefore a special permit is not needed. His combative attitude towards the city is pretty clear. “They can’t hold me against rules that aren’t there. It’s not their money, it’s not their building so if they want to play that game, I will walk. My negotiations with them are very obvious: Give me what I want.” His attitude is similar towards people who don’t like the name of the building changing. “They don’t want the name to be changed, they don’t want the history to be lost. The name hasn’t done anyone any good for the past 19 years. It’s like common sense has gone straight out the door.” About the BLM denying his land use in southern Nevada, he brings out the old cliche about the land belonging to the American people, not the government.

His plans for the building sound reasonable on the surface, but then he goes into extra details that start to make them sound unreasonable. He wants a culinary arts school on property, but then he says he will be able to attract Gordon Ramsey and Guy Fieri for appearances there. He will build a showroom and rent it out for proms and community events, but then he also says he is going to attract the biggest and best musical acts. He wants to have renewable energy generation on site, but then he starts talking about futuristic water-powered energy that his team of engineers are working on inventing, and how he’ll never sell out to bigger energy companies. He says he wants to bring a Wow Factor to the property that it doesn’t have now, but then he starts talking about the kind of displays the casinos in Las Vegas have. But he also says, “I don’t want to turn you into Las Vegas. You’ll do that on your own in time. I just want to have one property, trick it out, put in some nice waterfalls, trim the trees. What’s the problem?”

Overall, the problem does seem to be that he has too much Las Vegas thinking in him. He’s not planning this to be a good fit for Carson City because he doesn’t know anything about Carson City. This really is more of a Las Vegas idea, but he’s building it here because this is where there’s a building for sale. He has a disdain for the city government, he has a disdain for the community who is worried about losing some of the history of the Ormsby House, and he has grand ideas that seem difficult, at best, to pull off. If he wants to try to give it a go, I wish him godspeed. But it’s easy to see why nobody around here is taking him seriously. It’s worth a read to go through both that Carson Now article and the long list of comments underneath. And it’s not just online commenters either. I was at dinner the other night and overhead a couple at another table reading quotes from his interview and having a good hearty laugh.

I think the best comment on that article is the one that sums it all up perfectly.

“We disagree on a lot of topics in Carson. One thing this scam artist has succeeded in doing, is bringing us all together against him.”

UPDATE: This plan fizzled out fast. Joe D’Angelo’s plans went in front of Carson City’s major plan review team, which is an informal way for the various city departments to chime in on the development and explain any concerns they see that may stand in the way of permits being issued. The city came back with a list of recommendations and identified potential pitfalls with the plan that went again current zoning laws, and areas where special use permits would be required. And Joe D’Angelo, true to his promise to just walk away if the City didn’t bend over backwards to support him, did just that. He withdrew his purchase offer and gave up on the plan. Now the Ormsby House still sits vacant and waiting for another buyer to come along. But there has been one development; the closed Arco gas station next door was demolished in November 2019.

11 comments

    • Perhaps you know him? He wants to realize his dream of running a “non-convalescent adult living facility” at the expense of the town he wants to build it in. He has no respect for the building, its history, or the town for that matter. This isn’t Las Vegas.

      • The guy sounds a little bit out there and definitely doesn’t understand the culture of Carson City, but he’s obviously not an idiot. He’s right about one thing for sure; the history and the name of the building has done absolutely nothing for itself over the last 19 years. The building is a joke in town at this point. I’m getting to the point where I’d rather see it demolished and turned into a McDonalds. It would be less embarrassing than having the proud, not-to-be-tampered-with beacon of Carson City continue to be empty after 20 years. What does that say about our town?

  1. Scott,

    I, too; have kept up with this old Casino over the years thru your website as I am a casino chip collector and the tale of Ormsby House intrigues me to no end. You and I have discussed this before via emails, but my thought is that it really needs to remain a casino. Maybe a casino, condo, apartment, hotel combination even. You can go to several casino towns, Laughlin NV, Pahrump, Henderson, etc… and every one of the casino owners have an adjacent associated RV park beside them as people will actually “move” to these RV parks to live and retire. They stay in the RV parks and enjoy the casino buffets, restaurants, bowling, movies, etc…. So, my thoughts regarding the Ormsby House would be to do away with the RV park as such, but offer them condos or large apartments sitting right over the Ormsby House casino and they would have everything they need at their fingertips. Restaurants, parks, theaters, local shopping, area excursions, gambling, everything in a single package. In this manner an owner would have several revenue streams, not just the casino income. Just my take on this for what it is worth. Anyway, I can’t thank you enough for keeping up with the progress on this Casino by maintaining this website portal. It is really appreciated !

  2. So what happened at that Master Plan Review meeting on the October 1st? I’m not hearing anything in the local news about it.

  3. Well I too have watched this since ’02. I was super excited about the special 2 part inside report, back in 2006, thinking, wow, its going to be finished.

    Who the hell is to spend 10k a month for a single room? Fantasyland…

    Is this entire venture, to be a tax-free Church? Is that how it survives?

    “After several failed attempts to bring large-scale community projects to different cities in Nevada, he has now set his sights on Carson City to make his “Joshua’s Community” dreams come to life…”

    He wants to build on-site pharmacy, and have oxygen pumped directly into the rooms….but doesnt think he needs permits to do so…

    “The city is talking about a special use permit, but what I’m proposing is outside the scope of the current rules and regulations that pertain to that permit. It’s hitting an area they’ve never addressed. They told me that the special use permit would override everything, but I’m arguing that they can’t hold me against rules that aren’t there. It’s not their money, it’s not their building so if they want to play that game, I will walk. My negotiations with them are very obvious: Give me what I want.”

    And one of the best, a water based power plant where Arco is, that can power basically the city
    Just one…..?

    “One of the ways he said his project will help the community is to bring a green-power plant into where the ARCO station currently sits, which would be water powered. The plant would be used to power the Joshua House project, but it could also be used to power the Governor’s Office, the Capitol, the Legislature, or even Carson City as a whole.”

    Anyone remember how funny “Grand Re-opening July 4th, 2001,” was……until now

  4. It really is unfortunate that this buyer Mr. D’Angelo walked out on this purchase. Carson City desperately needs rejuvenation. D’Angelo could of negotiated, working with Carson City to figure it out. Personally, I do think that the long list of multi purpose use was a bit much.
    The $10,000. apartment rent was way out there. Focus on a few ideas and make them work.
    I will be pleased when someone does finally put this building to good use.

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